Published: Jun 18, 2010 12:58 AM EDT
Updated: Jun 17, 2010 9:48 PM EDT

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has confirmed four panther attacks this month in  the Golden Gate Estates area of Collier County.

FWC biologists believe a panther family is roaming around residents’ properties looking for food. The female panther has killed chickens and goats. The attacks occurred in areas that did not have predator-proof enclosures for the animals.

The FWC and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office advise that these incidents are preventable if pet owners and livestock owners take proper measures.  “Vigilance is the key to protecting people’s pets and livestock,” said Mark Lotz, a biologist on the FWC’s panther team. “These animals need to be secured, especially at night, in predator-proof enclosures that have sturdy walls and a roof.”

Lotz says securing livestock and pets will protect them from all predators, such as dogs, coyotes and bobcats, in addition to panthers. Panthers are attracted to prey, such as deer, wild hogs, raccoons, rabbits and armadillos. By feeding deer or other wildlife, people can inadvertently attract panthers. Residents should secure all potential food sources, such as garbage or pet food, which attract wildlife

Pets that are free-roaming, or pets that are tethered and unfenced, are easy prey for predators, including panthers.  “Where practical, put chickens, goats, hogs or other livestock in enclosed structures at night,” Lotz said. “Electric fencing can be an effective predator deterrent.”

Florida panthers were listed as endangered in 1967 and are protected under both federal and state laws. The panther population declined to approximately 30 cats by the early 1980s. Today there are about 100 panthers in Florida.